Learning to walk the talk

For 20 years, Daniel* has been in and out of prison, struggling with addiction. He recently celebrated a full year clean and sober. This is his story.

drugs

Today, I don't blame my past or anyone for my drug-taking and drinking, but for a long time I blamed everyone else for my behavior.

I never fitted in as a kid so I used a lot of masks. I was the class clown, but really I was full of fear and low self-worth. Coming into high school I was bullied. I hated being at school and I also hated being home.

My parents did the best they could. They had five kids and were flat out. I was a naughty kid, so most of the time I spent with my dad was when he came home from work and had to give me a 'clipping'.

The people I gravitated towards drank and used drugs. By the time I was 13 I was taking pot and drinking on weekends and by 15 to 16, I was smoking pot every day. At around 18, I started injecting.

I really only picked up drugs to fit in. In the beginning, the drugs relieved anxiety and even lower self-worth. I became an addict and I ended up going through the prison system.

I was born into a religious family, so I always had beliefs. I knew of Jesus and His death on the cross, but I didn't know you could have a relationship with Him.

A recovery service taught me about connection and relationship with God, but because of fear or embarrassment, I couldn't talk about the relationship I had with Jesus and God. So I left God at the gate and consequently I went back to my own thinking – and picked up drugs again.

I wasn't ready to surrender. They were some of the darkest times I've known. More time in jail, in a toxic relationship, and our baby was removed from our care. Falling back into addiction after that first rehab took me into even deeper, putrid darkness, but I also reached the end of myself so God could start working.

One night I was sitting by the fire talking to God. I'd kept talking to Him, even though I'd done what I felt was wrong, asking Him to keep me safe. Sitting alone at the fire I literally heard a Voice say: "Daniel, I know you can talk the talk, it's time you walked the walk. Slide over, put your feet up and let me steer from here."

I know you
can talk the
talk, it’s time
you walked
the walk.

From that day I reconnected to God and I started to do the 'right' thing, then the next right thing. I reconnected with the recovery service and eventually connected with Chad, my recovery service's caseworker.

Through him, I was accepted to a 'clean and sober' Salvation Army boarding house. On my first night I went to a 12-steps meeting. I also met the chaplain Brian and did the Positive Lifestyle Program.

I started doing voluntary work at the recovery service, which turned into an opportunity to pay off my fines. I am still doing gardening once a week and Chad is still my case manager. Chad has helped so much. He and I come from similar backgrounds so it's easy for me to talk to him. He is also a man of faith and the way he explains stuff is not judgmental, it comes from a place of love and care. I have also started building relationships with my older children.

I've had a Bible app on my phone for just over 12 months, which I read every day. I learn a lot about God, wanting to know more about Him and understand His Word.

I understand now that I can't rely on my own strength at all. I need to trust God, clean up the wreckage of my past and serve others. I also have had to be honest with what I've done. It's been a massive journey and it still is today.

I go to church, to men's church weekends and in the future I want to do a ministry course and a fitness training course. I want to help others.

There have been so many 'God-moments' since I've stopped running on my own strength. I now live in a great apartment near the water. Every time I walk in, to me it is yet another physical example of God's amazing provision.

*Name changed.
This article first appeared in the Australian Salvation Army Warcry magazine.

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